WWE took its product in a completely different direction as they finally kicked-off the brand split with the WWE Draft on Tuesday night.
The WWE roster will now exclusively operate under two separate shows with the Raw brand and the SmackDown brand while NXT still holds that spot closest to our heart as the fun “niche” developmental show.
SmackDown Live created a lot of buzz with the “Yes Man” Daniel Bryan being named as the general manager and Shane McMahon holding the commissioner role. It was coined as the “wrestling show” with an emphasis being on the in-ring product. Naturally, this was cause for optimism. Raw, on the other hand, which will be run by General Manager Mick Foley and Commissioner Stephanie McMahon, are heading the WWE’s flagship show.
Raw had the first overall pick and took Seth Rollins while SmackDown selected the WWE Champion Dean Ambrose with their respective first pick to lead their brand. Over the next few rounds, the bulk of the premier talent would be snatched up.
Raw nabbed Women’s Champion Charlotte, NXT sensation Finn Bálor, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, The New Day, Sami Zayn, Sasha Banks, Rusev, Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens and Enzo and Big Cass as their most notable picks. SmackDown decided to go with A.J. Styles, the face of WWE John Cena, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, The Miz, Becky Lynch and NXT tag team American Alpha.
Each brand traded picks through the 11 rounds with talented stars like Cesaro falling to the sixth round, which seemed to legitimately anger the WWE Superstar as he vented for the camera for everyone to see. The fall of “The King of Swing” was not the only perplexing choice of draft night. Nope. Kevin Owens’ fall to late in the fourth round had many fans on social media scratching their heads, along with NXT fan favorite Bayley not being picked at all during the draft.
Who came out on top?
SmackDown Live with John Cena, WWE Champion Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton and A.J. Styles as the brand’s top performers is pretty top heavy. Plus, with Daniel Bryan as the managerial face of the company, that’s enough to have fans flock to the USA Network and tune in for Tuesday nights.
However, where SmackDown Live falters compared to Raw is the depth of the roster. Raw’s roster is loaded with depth. Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar are explosive assets for the brand and pretty close to even compared to head-to-head with SmackDown’s top guys. But Raw has a superb pool of depth with the likes of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, The New Day, Neville, Sheamus, Charlotte and Sasha Banks makes it WWE’s top dog.
With that type of talent condensed, you’ll be seeing some big pushes and some electric feuds. It’s easy to imagine the WWE Universe just salivating at the chance to see Rollins and Balor clash for an incredible saga in the squared circle. Perhaps seeing Owens and Lesnar face off? Even the most difficult to please crowd would be entertained by a Reigns feud with Balor or Cesaro. The possibilities are endless.
Still, the brand split will not officially take place until after Sunday’s Battleground PPV. What remains to be seen is how the WWE World Heavyweight Championship triple threat match between former Shield members Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins will conclude and impact the direction WWE takes for SummerSlam. Most speculation is that someone will take a double pin.
Regardless of this Sunday’s outcome, Raw will still rule the roost. It possesses the larger roster and a 3-hour time slot and considering WWE’s premier show also snatched up the newly announced Cruiserweight Division, it makes it even more desirable for fans.
Despite the comparison of rosters, the brand split has already accomplished what WWE intended. It has reinvigorated the product and generated more enthusiasm among WWE’s fan base as they are now presented with even more reason to tune in every week while both brands battle for superiority.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports, a hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.